Have you had your teeth cleaned lately? Did you ever think about the person who did the work? He or she is probably a dental hygienist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 20 healthcare professions that require less than a Bachelor’s degree. Few of them, however, pay as much as a dental hygienist earns. If you are looking for a professional career in a nice environment with good hours, benefits and pay, read more.
This position requires an Associate’s degree in dental hygiene from an accredited school. Along with that, the candidate also needs CPR certification and a license from their state. You might also need a certification in local anesthesia.
Before being accepted into a college hygiene program there are prerequisites that must be accomplished in subjects like Chemistry, Biology and Math. Be aware that the prerequisites can add years onto your learning time if you haven't taken those subjects and the corresponding Regents in high school.
At the end of your college program, you must pass state and national exams. You may be required to take continuing education to keep your license. Some employers offer courses in CPR and OSHA to help you meet these requirements.
Positions in this career are in private dental offices, hospitals, clinics, military bases, nursing homes, government health departments and in schools. The average rate for a full time employee is over $32 an hour. While there are a lot of full time jobs, there are more often part time openings.
Duties includes evaluating overall oral health, looking for evidence of periodontal disease, cancer or any other serious malady and taking radiographs. The worker also documents the patient’s medical history electronically, records lab procedures and adheres to treatment plans that are prescribed by the dentist. Procedures may include: application of fluoride and sealants, administering local anesthetic agents, removing plaque, start smoking cessation programs, prophylaxis, periodontal scaling, and root planing. During a patient visit, the hygienist teaches health education to improve and maintain oral health.
There are some common complaints in the industry. Schools are pumping out graduates and flooding the job market. Competition is high for jobs. At the same time, dentists try to save money by doing most of the hygiene work themselves, only offering part time jobs and paying less than fair wages. Before you decide on this career, take a look at the job openings in your area. What do they pay? What are the hours? Interview the head of the dental program at your preferred school and ask about job prospects. What about a Dental Assistant program? Some big companies with many openings are Aspen Dental, Dental One Partners, Heartland Dental, Smile Brands and Dental Associates.
Along with a good salary, many big corporations offer annual pay increases, on-the-job-training, tuition reimbursement, mentor program, paid holidays, vacation and sick hours, 401K, opportunity to advance to supervisor, uniform allowance and medical, dental and life insurance.
What to Do Next
Find out more about this career at the ADHA – American Dental Hygienists Association. Ask the hygienists that clean your teeth about how they like their job. Look for accredited educational programs in your area. Look at our job board and see if there are jobs in your town or city. Take stock of your personal skills and academic abilities. Dental Hygienists go through rigorous education. It is time consuming and hard. Be sure before you begin!